South America and Caribbean

Bolivian Police Detains CEO of LaMia Airlines

LaMia Airlines RJ85
Graham

Bolivian authorities have arrested the Chief Executive Officer of the now-suspended LaMia airlines after one of its aircraft crashed, killing 71 persons.

The aircraft, an Avro RJ85 operated by LaMia, was transporting the Brazilian Chapecoense football squad, including 22 players, 23 coaching and other club staff, 2 guests and 21 journalists.

Gustavo Vargas, a retired Bolivian air force general and LaMia airlines CEO, has been detained in Santa Cruz, along with a mechanic and secretary who worked for him, after it emerged the flight ran out of fuel before crashing into the Colombian mountainside.

All are being questioned about their roles in letting a short-range jet attempt a more than four-hour flight from Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, to José María Córdova International Airport in Colombia., for which it barely had enough fuel, in violation of aviation rules.

The airline’s headquarters have also been searched and documents seized.

Authorities are also looking into whether LaMia, which received permission to fly only earlier this year, was favoured by Vargas’s son, who headed the office responsible for licensing aircraft in Bolivia’s civil aviation agency. After the crash, LaMia had its licence revoked and several aviation officials, including Vargas’s son, were suspended.

The official who said she had warned Quiroga of a fuel shortage, Celia Castedo, has fled to Brazil from Bolivia after she revealed the information.

One of the six survivors of the crash said he had been reassured by the airline before take-off that the plane would make a refuelling stop in the Bolivian town of Cobija, as it had on previous flights north.

(Image under CC BY-SA 2.0)

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